Many say the job of the artist is to give us a new perspective. Be it through a painting, a dance, poetry, music, each medium offers us a chance to see, hear, feel, and examine life from a new perspective, a multi-sensory perspective. Famous author and spiritual leader Gary Zukov (Seat of the Soul) espouses that the time of the "five-sensory human" is over and that as a species it's time to recognize and evolve into the fact that we are multi-sensory human beings.
Artists have been born from this truth for years. Multi-sensory humans recognize the inter-connectedness of all people and all things. Multi-sensory humans consult the wisdom of their intuition and their emotional awareness as much as they consult the wisdom of their intellect, perhaps even more so. But you don't have to be an artist or have an artist's eye to be multi-sensory. Have you ever known something was about to happen before it happened? Have you ever made a large decision by consulting your gut (intuition) and "known" you were making the right choice? Have you ever gazed in awe at a sunset, or a field of flowers, or a thunderstorm and deeply felt the vastness and power of a world much larger than you? All these things make you a multi-sensory human being. They are also the things that make you conscious to the world around you and to your place in it. These are the clues that direct you towards your greater purpose. The whispers of your heart that tell you what you'd really love to do if you felt you could. They are the keys to your soul.
One simple way to increase this multi-sensory experience is to squint. Soften the edges of all that you see and notice what else is there when you look between the hard lines. Or try shutting your eyes altogether and listening. How many different sounds can you hear in any one place? With your eyes still shut, how many smells do you notice? How many sensations in your body can you become present to? Do you feel the sun on your shoulders, the wind that gently blows the hair on your arm? Do you feel the smile that emerges as you remember a time when you were a child standing barefoot in the grass smiling at the sky just because it felt good to be there?
Tuning in to multi-sensory awareness lets you see other people with a new perspective too. At A Place To Be (our nonprofit that uses the therapeutic arts to work with people with special needs), I work with people that society often ignores because it hasn't opened the lens wide enough to include people with differences in a meaningful way. Last year I met a man, "M," whose eyes were placed closer to his ears than to his nose and whose jaw was so badly askew it was difficult to look at him. He shouted more than spoke and I can only imagine that his life has not been an easy one. But soon we discovered that "M" liked to play the drums and sing. His laughter was contagious and his spirit soared and elevated us all! No one would ever have known that this beautiful man could teach others such joy if we hadn't opened up our heart and eyes to really seeing who he is and allowing him to be himself. As the fox shares in Le Petit Prince, "it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." It's time to see with more than just our eyes, to see with our hearts and our multi-sensory selves into the souls and beauty of others and all that surrounds us.
These poems are excerpted from "Behind The Label: A perspective on people living with special needs" about the magnificent young people with different (dis)abilities who have been among my greatest teachers and best examples of living as multi-sensory, authentic human beings.
Artwork by Shea O'Brien
Energy in its purest form
Like water in a faucet ready to pour forth if only someone would come and turn it on!
She has interests like you and me,
From books to boys she babbles with enthusiasm.
Her heart spilling over with hope -
maybe this time she will be included, accepted.
"Why do people think I'm different?" she wonders aloud, "Why doesn't anyone like me?"
This little girl who just wants to imagine castles and fairies, wizards and jesters with you...
She buries back into her book - alone
protected by the written words who serve as her friends
never understanding the intricate nuances of the bodies around her,
a language others soak up with ease.
But should you take the time to reach out,
should you be the one to turn the handle
a cascade of gratitude will pour unto you
drowning you in sheer excitement;
the sweet stream of uncensored joy,
and you will know what it is to matter –
to be someone's first friend
Artwork by Shea O'Brien
Timid yet bold
unassuming yet headstrong
You are a collection of opposites.
Too shy to lead,
but a leader you've become
Growing more confident with time.
Labels once held you back
behind which you sat confused, left out
longing - but scared.
Like the caterpillar who morphs while deep inside its cocoon
You have emerged transformed.
And as you fly you will look back and remember
the cocoon from whence you came,
broken open left to dangle in the breeze.
And you will have compassion for the old you
the girl that allowed challenges to define her,
the girl that felt limited and small...
and the girl who ultimately learned
to spread her wings
Artwork by Shea O'Brien
An old soul it is clear you have,
living in a body that has let you down time
and time again
With it comes wisdom,
grace and generosity
fortitude of spirit
With it comes responsibility,
for you know at your delicate young age
what it is to live against the clock
To wonder if when you wake up
this day will be filled with pain
or with relief
You stand upon the shoulders of those whose lives were called too early,
and upon those who, with humility and gratitude,
are still here
Now, a new day is dawning, a light is creeping over your path and
your road stretches out long before you.
Walk softly, dream big, live gloriously.